Category Archives: Essay Outlines / Full Essays

General Paper Essay Outline : As long as people do their job well, does it matter what they do in private ?

Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only or final answer to the question.

warning handle with care

1) Some may argue that it should not matter because everyone should have the freedom to do what they want in private. It is their inalienable right.

2) To add on, whatever they do in private should have no effect on how their work is judged. This would help maintain fairness and meritocracy. (Credit to Elaine :) )

However sound the above arguments may be, these do not seem to be categorically applicable.

3) People in the public eye have a responsibility to be good role models because they influence so many people. Since their private lives are put under scrutiny, what they do in private does matter. (Credit to Najiy :) )

4) In certain areas of work, what a person does in private affects the integrity of his work and can tarnish the good work that he does. So what he does in private does matter.

5) When the private action is criminal and wrong, then that person has to be taken to task for it regardless of the quality of his work. It can even be argued that his good work cannot be used as a mitigating factor in deciding the consequences of his wrong-doing if he has caused harm. (Credit to Irfan :) )

6) On top of this, what a person does in private matters because the good quality of a person’s work could belie a harmful, unhealthy condition. Of course, this could be true for only a minority of people but the message here is that there has to be care for what goes on in a person’s private life even though he appears successful in his work. (Thank you to Dhanya :) )

7) The arguments above point to a common idea that a person’s public and private life can be hard to distinguish. This is reinforced in this day and age when so many people make their private actions public using social media applications. Everyone who uses social media must be careful lest their private actions have an impact on how they and they work are judged.

8) Finally, private actions matter because after being caught up with the sudden freedom to over-share their private lives online, people in modern societies now have to rise above their heightened vulnerability in the internet age. Their caution over their private actions cannot be based on a fear of being exposed. That would be hypocritical. A person ought to set standards that he can live by through and through, not just when it serves his work. Even if a person does his job well, his private actions matter because the public and private domains of a person’s life are actually not that divisible after all. (Thank you to Olivia for this powerful idea :) )


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General Paper Essay Outline : Entrepreneurship is just another name for personal greed.


Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only or final answer to the question.

warning handle with care

other factors essay

Stand : The motivations for enterprise are varied.

1) Greed – evidence can be seen in different forms of abuse to cut corners & maximise profit

- reduce consumers’ welfare

- exploitation of the environment or workers

However, …

2) To fulfil one’s passion; share one’s passion with others. The money is secondary and a result of successfully spreading the love for one’s passion

3) To fulfil one’s potential and direct one’s talent by being one’s own boss instead of being employed by others. This is not for greed but done because of the need for self-actualisation which could be hampered if the person was used by his bosses to enrich themselves.

4) To fill a gap in society; to make an improvement that has not yet been done, or is not yet done well enough. Such social enterprises have to be profitable in order to continue running, but since ethics is the driving force behind the business, it is less likely to take actions out of greed.

5) To continue a tradition or a family business, even if there could be less money to be made (but better if the business could be revived to be better than ever)

6) To escape poverty or avoid oppressive work conditions; to become more independent when work is limited. Not for greed but for survival.

7) To learn to take risks; acquire real-world business experience.
The modern world values people who dare to dream, and work to achieve their goals. Failure is acceptable, even encouraged because it can make a person more resilient or “anti-fragile”. In such cases, setting a revenue or profit target is not out of greed, but because it gives a measureable goal for the start-up to work towards.  



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General Paper Essay Outline : In the digital age, do newspapers still have a role in your society ?

We saw several attempts at this question this term. So here is a compilation of ideas :) This is an old question, but the answers below are so different from what we got from past years, partly because we have observed more carefully how the internet & newspapers have evolved.

Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only or final answer to the question.

warning handle with care

Yes :

- Important role of newspapers as the main platform for the government to disseminate information & propagate ideas to the masses

- There are some categories of people who are not IT-savvy, or do not have ready internet access. They still rely on the conventional newspaper.

- In Sg, there is still sufficient regard for the credibility and professionalism of the state-linked mainstream newspaper. This is especially seen in the way online news sites or commentary sites and blogs use the articles from the newspapers to develop their articles. Although some sites carry out careful and in-depth analysis, others commit “churnalism” which is when other sites simply re-hash what the newspapers already print. Either way, the value of newspapers is reinforced.

- While we acknowledge that some social commentary sites do have their own reporters who cover the news on the ground and thus act as an alternative to the journalistic work of the mainstream newspapers, these online media groups do not necessarily have the means or manpower to be as extensive in their efforts as the mainstream newspaper.

- The local newspapers keep up with times to ensure their relevance e.g. online versions, with accompanying online forums to meet the demands for greater discussion between the readers and editors or among the readers. Newspapers in Sg also include articles from other international papers like the Washington Post and the New York Times to fulfil the desire for more sources of news (Of course the discerning reader still understands that these articles have been carefully selected to meet the agendas of the Sg newspapers). Newspapers are even on Twitter to fulfil the desire for immediacy in reporting.

- Cyberspace is too expansive. And we are all so busy. As such, focused reading of pre-selected material in the newspapers that present Sg’s immediate concerns might not be a bad idea after all. We should get hold of news and information that matters to us most.

- In any case, we also know that the mainstream newspapers in Sg cannot afford to ignore the hottest news that have gone viral online. No matter how controversial or taboo the matter is, the local newspapers will have to carry such stories in a bid not to lose its readership. Otherwise, netizens who catch the newspapers being silent on ‘hot’ issues will decry the newspapers for being shackled by the government. What this means is that newspaper readers benefit from getting a clear presentation of such issues without having to trawl through pages and pages of online opinions which are usually a chaotic mix of reason, ranting, humour and, most unfortunately, hate .


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General Paper Essay Outline : Is poverty an inevitable feature in any society ?

inevitable problems

Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only or final answer to the question.

warning handle with care

Yes, because some causes of poverty are intractable and some of the solutions have shortcomings.

  1. To begin, it must be made clear there have been many efforts undertaken by practically all societies to overcome poverty
    Government policies esp. education & job creation, Culture of philantrophy
  2. However, despite all the commendable efforts, poverty still persists to varying degrees due to many reasons. One classic reason is because the politically or financially powerful want control the masses
    Extreme case : North Korea
  3. Global job competition – oppression in the form of cheap labour
    e.g. sweatshops producing clothes for international brands — countries that offer the lowest wages can attract companies
    e.g. transient workers who work abroad but do not get enough rights
  4. Next, the widening income gap creates  a class of people at the bottom end within a society. People with advantages use that to widen their lead. The poor are left behind unless there is effective intervention
  5. Another systemic problem that makes poverty persistent is the debt-based economic system — people are not truly rich but in debt .
    Economic booms and busts can make people suddenly poor.
    Unemployment, repossessed homes
  6. Aid is a problematic solution to poverty
    Aid or welfare programmes can make people dependent on aid and not self-reliant, whereas aid from other countries or the World Bank and IMF usually come with strings attached especially the forced privatisation of national assets and flooding of foreign goods to the local market
  7. The aging population, our new reality — not as economically productive but need to use the country’s resources

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General Paper Essay Outline : Discuss the claim that in the modern world people should care more about international than national issues.

Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only or final answer to the question.
warning handle with care


To begin, national issues should generally be more important to modern world people because their own national issues will affect them directly. When there are serious domestic problems to handle, people have to show care by directing resources to solve these issues first before thinking of caring about international issues. If they do not take care about their own backyard, the progress and development of their society could be jeopardised. In addition, since the modern world is very competitive, it could very well be in the interest of other countries to see their competitors flounder or fail. With no guarantee that anyone else will help a country in times of need, it is truly up to the people of the country themselves to ensure their own internal security, stability and economy are well managed. These must take precedence over international issues. For example, in 2008, when the people of Iceland, a modern society, found their country bankrupt in the wake a larger global financial credit crisis, the response of the people was not to consider that global crisis as something that they could help alleviate (by saving their ailing banks, for instance). They had to look into their own problems of governance to sustain themselves. While this case is extreme, it does reinforce the view that modern world societies should put national interests ahead of international issues.



Next, national issues should be a greater concern for modern world people because if the care for international issues becomes overwhelming, these could affect their own society.
In developed societies with large immigrant communities, there is a constant wariness that problems in foreign lands will spill over into their country and disrupt the peace.
Eg : Australia : immigrant communities, together with supporters from among the locals, use their freedom of assembly to protest problems such as the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Syrian crisis. As passionate as they are about their cause, some may argue that their energies are better spent on solving Australia’s many on-going problems such as unemployment or falling education standards. Their greater participation in national issues actually helps them integrate, instead of import new tensions to Australian society.


Modern world people should care more for domestic affairs because the truth is, no matter how much they can learn about international issues from the internet or mass media, their knowledge of their own country would be more complete.
This means that their care and actions to help local affairs would be made based on clearer, more accurate information. The care and help they give would be more meaningful with more direct results.
Eg. : Kony 2012 scam – millions of dollars donated over an anti-child soldier viral video that turned out to show only part of the story, not the whole



Counter Pt : Notwithstanding all the above, there are many moral arguments that compel modern world people to care about international issues.
Modern societies are the cause of international problems, so they are morally obliged to help
Modern societies have the technological or financial means to help, and control of the media to raise further awareness and aid for these international issues. So it is right for them to care.
Modern world people who are citizens of superpower countries have the added burden of influencing their governments so that their leaders, who have control of international bodies, will make decisions that are for the greater good of the world.
Modern societies evolve to become even more civilised by being part of a larger global human family. So caring about international issues is actually good for their own development.


Rebuttal to Counter Pt : While the aforementioned moral claims are justified, and modern world people should indeed care, this care should still not be greater than their caring about domestic issues.
Due to time, energy and other resource constraints, even modern world people have to pick their battles wisely. Among the many international issues that they should care about, the ones that affect them should be given great attention because the international issue has actually become a national concern. Other international issues that have far less impact should be of far less concern.
Eg : No European country is in the six-party talks to end North Korea’s nuclear programme because … … Yet, Europe’s larger modern countries namely Germany and the UK have to absorb the shock of the general economic slowdown of the European Union.


In conclusion, modern world people are expected to act for the benefit of those around the world who have less of a voice. They are expected to aid, educate or create awareness, fight for equality or even stop a war. While all these efforts are necessary and noble, they should not be pursued at the expense of national interests. Poor prioritisation could lead to the destabilising of that very modern society upon which so many of the world’s hopes are pinned. Therefore modern world people should care more about national issues than international issues.


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General Paper Essay Outline : Should conformity be the main aim of schools ?

Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only or final answer to the question.

warning handle with care

Thesis Statement : Conformity should not be the main aim of schools. Even though conformity has a part to play in schools, making it the main aim may undermine efforts to develop a child holistically and fulfil his potential. There are other social repercussions that result from making conformity the main aim of schools.



To begin, it must be made clear that this essay does not seek to reject conformity totally. Conformity does have benefits especially when it comes to instilling values :
 Conformity brings order that is needed for learning.
 Conformity facilitates the inculcation of a set of values that children can live by when they grow up and enter adulthood and the world of work.


However, despite the merits of conformity, it should not be the main aim of schools because the school system could turn into a factory, merely producing workers for the economy but not necessarily accomplishing the true intent of education which is to fulfil human potential, no matter how varied this potential could be.
 Conformity negatively affects the curriculum and teaching methodologies (e.g. not accommodating different talents, learning styles & learning abilities)


Next, conformity should not be the main aim of schools because conformity stunts thinking, which is one of the major intents of education.
 it quashes ideas, debate, moral courage, all of which are needed for the modern world but all of which can actually be encouraged positively in the safe confines of the classroom
 longer term repercussions of a conformist school culture


In addition to curbing thought processes, conformity in schools results in young people not being adaptable enough to the changes in the real world
 Do they expect only apply a certain set of skills ? No, they should operate with the mentality that they should be open to learning new skills. Schools should hone this flexibility instead of narrowing the prospects that students have


Another reason why conformity should not be the main aim of schools is conformity perverts meritocracy.
 assessment model that recognises test scores above other abilities  rewarding rote-learners & good test-takers more than passionate, creative & critical thinkers


Resolution : There should be just enough rules to make schools a safe place for a child to flourish. It is the flourishing of the individual, and not conformity, that should be the main aim of schools.
(about 400 words)


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General Paper Essay Outline : Education should only be concerned with useful things.

Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only or final answer to the question.

warning handle with care


To begin, education policy-makers contend that mass education is meant to have a larger social or economic purpose and so, it is too idealistic to accommodate things that cannot be determined as being useful and for the greater good. The use of tax-payers’ money also means that schools have to be held accountable if they are ineffective in achieving these larger objectives. Limited resources means decisions have to be made. …

Pragmatists also argue that what is useful evolves depending on how the country or society changes and how the global environment changes too. This means that educators should busy themselves with gaining a better understanding of what is expected of school-leavers and ensuring that their education is sufficient. Moreover, the demands made on school-leavers and graduates are greater than in the past. Thus the pragmatic view that all effort should be directed at developing what is most useful for students indeed has a sound basis.

Be that as it may, education should not only be about useful things because education is meant to prepare us for a future which may look very different from currently foreseeable scenarios. The fact that we label useful things as such suggests that we already know or can pre-empt what is needed, but the future may not be the case. So, as a society develops, it should strive for a broader education that provides both what is obviously useful as well as what is deemed not useful. …

Education should not only be about useful things because this becomes a conscious effort to put a practical value to everything that schools decide to do. What messages are we then sending out to students about how to treasure the things around them ?

Finally, education should not only be concerned with useful things because formal education, being a long process and taking at least ten to fifteen years in the developed societies, can actually include both the useful and seemingly un-useful in order to give the best to the student. …



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General Paper Essay Outline : Women will never enjoy the same rights as men. Do you agree?

Thesis Statement : Women will, and do, enjoy equal rights as men but not in all aspects, and not in all societies.



1) To begin with, laws can be used to grant women equal rights as men. Positive examples of such laws that exist today act as a precedent to show that gender equality is achievable.


2) HOWEVER, the cynical view is that in rigidly patriarchal communities, those in control actually benefit from the oppression of women and view equal rights as a threat to their control. They will persist in using both legal and social pressures to limit equal rights between the sexes.


3) Despite the oppression that prevails in some parts of the world, in more developed societies, attitudes within  society can change, and this will in turn create gradual pressure for the government to preserve equal rights. — importance of involved fathers — women public figures and achievers — value of women in the workforce


4) HOWEVER, even in the developed world, it is ironic that the media, which has a great impact on attitudes, is guilty of perpetuating stereotypes that undermine the equal rights movement.


5) On top of the media frequently sabotaging women, the poor enforcement of equal rights at a global level is inevitable. This makes the success of the equal rights movement uneven.


Resolution / Conclusion :

In conclusion, the extent of success in achieving equal rights between the sexes has been varied. While women in some societies have cause to celebrate, in other parts of the world, there are deeply-rooted systems and traditions that cannot be changed unless drastic and revolutionary action is taken. But the cost of such action may be so severe, that the unequal status quo becomes as good as preferred.

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General Paper Essay Outline : The book has no place in modern society. Discuss.

Courtesy of Haziq, with input from the tutor.

Points :
Books, especially fiction – for escape, respite from the stresses of modern life – away from computers and technology

Book producers publish online or electronic versions of books to target the new generation of technology savvy readers – books thus remain relevant

However, books cannot compete with the other forms of relaxation that the modern world has to offers – gaming, movies, Internet surfing all are rich in audio visual stimulation

Yet, books can stimulate the mind in a different way. Firstly, online we are flooded with the opinions of others.  When we read a hard copy of a book, we can think about what we read for ourselves without the comments of others.

Next, bookstores and libraries offer a different kind of serendipity compared to the internet. While search engines group articles by keywords, the Dewey Decimal system of classification organises books by themes. So the chances the reader discovers a wider range of information and ideas  is greater when he reads a book compared to if he were to make a narrow keyword search on Google or Bing. (Idea from journalist and bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell)

Physical copies of books can have sentimental value and still make good gifts. The act of flipping through pages adds to the immersive experience of reading. A conventional book does what a gadget simply does not even though electronic versions are readily available today.

Finally, editing ensures greater quality control of books than self publishing or just borrowing and commenting other people’s ideas on the Internet.

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General Paper Essay Outline : How far do governments promise more than they can fulfil ? adapted from CJC Prelim 2013

Courtesy of Kang Wei, with input from the tutor :

Points :

(1) Stiff competition during the elections compel competing political contenders to make promises without being completely sure if these promises can be fulfilled. Basically, the contenders say what the voters want to hear just to win their votes.

(2) Political debate within Congress or Parliament ends in a stalemate if there is no dominant party. It is difficult to reach a consensus or difficult to win the required majority to pass bills and initiate the change that the government promised before.

(3) Corruption and the desire to just consolidate power instead of improve the lives of the masses can also lead to unfulfilled promises.

(4) Unforeseen circumstances can affect promises made.

(5) Despite all the above, it is possible for governments to fulfil promises because of some clever preparation and planning. Instead of over-promising, the government can put in the effort to moderate the expectations of the people, so when the promise is finally made, it is achievable. This could require months of perception management by the government via the media

(6) In addition, the nature or the scale of the problem affects whether the government can fulfil any promises about the issue. A small-scale, contained problem is more easily resolved, and so a timely promise to overcome that problem would make the government look good in the eyes of the public. Thus, the government would go ahead and actually make that promise.

Anything else ?

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[REVISE QN WITH MULTIPLE REQUIREMENTS] General Paper Essay Outline : Advertising is entertaining, but of little impact on consumer choices. Is this true of your experiences ?

Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only or final answer to the question.

Revision / Reminder >>> Attend to ALL parts of the question

peel revision

Sample Phrasing of Ideas  for the Question : Advertising is entertaining, but of little impact on consumer choices. Is is true of your experiences ? (taken from the A-Levels 2007)

Note the THREE colour-coded parts of the question that ought to be dealt with appropriately in every paragraph.

The Examiners apparently prefer you to show an understanding of the terms in the question, instead of just repeating the words from the question.

1) Advertising can try to leave an impression by using humour or memorable music, but in my pragmatic society, price has an important role to play in the final decision.

2) There may be advertisements that are so catchy that the slogans or words become so familiar and even used for emphasis in casual conversations. However, the functionality of the product matters more. In fact, many a times, effective advertising is one that is more informative than entertaining. Product reviews in magazines or on the internet as well as informative ads, rather than gimmicky ones, appeal to the educated consumer who is looking for the best product to suit his needs. 

3) What then are the products that can best be sold using entertaining advertising ? In my society, an almost sure winner is food. Advertisers need to ensure that they have the right mix of jingles and preferably funny or unexpected scenarios to get consumers making the beeline just to try out the product or visit the eatery. The lively food culture here makes the work of advertising  a lot easier. Food is rarely seen as a big ticket item that would require a lot of mulling over before the consumer parts with his money. The challenge is to grab their attention before the competitors do. Hence the need for entertaining advertisements.

4)  Furthermore, the purpose of advertising is not so much to boost sales of a particular product, but for the establishment of a longer term presence of the brand in the society. In this aspect, the consumers in my society may very well be influenced by major advertising blitzes that titillate the senses. The sale of high-end luxury brands are to some degree fuelled by dramatic advertising campaigns that usual tie the products to illusions of sensuality, charisma and class, which are just the right entertainment elements to draw people from a rather status-conscious society. Even if they cannot afford the brand now, they will remember it when they have the means to purchase.

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General Paper Essay Outline : Competition, not cooperation, is the key to progress

Disclaimer : These are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be the only or final answer to this question.

warning handle with care

Reminder : This is a comparison question. So, play safe and compare in every part/point of your discussion.

Stand : Competition seems to be the cruel fact of life. However, due to everyone’s or each group’s limitations, cooperation would be the key to progress for more win-win situations.

1)      Those who are in favour of competition as the key to progress often argue that we compete to improve.

They proceed to propound that on the other hand, cooperation = not necessarily even or equitable work done (because each party could behave in a self-serving way).

Also, giving everyone a say, and calling this cooperation may not necessarily result in the best plan

However, …..

2)      we recognise that cooperation = more resources, more ideas
Competition leaves those with fewer resources lagging behind, and could spur the hoarding of resources to maintain one’s advantage

3)  Worse still, when competition promotes a mercenary attitude towards many endeavours (i.e. since a person, group or country does not want to rely on cooperation with others, they end up paying others for the mutual help that could otherwise be given when parties cooperate)

4) On the other hand, cooperation reinforces many other positive values. One of them is trust, as well as fairness and effectiveness in fulfilling that trust.  Cooperation would fail if any party is seen as untrustworthy, and all parties involved would not be able to progress.

The predominance of either cooperation, or competition, can have a deep effect on the general attitudes that prevail in society.

5) As an extension to the point above, competition adopts the principle of scarcity, whereas cooperation adopts the principle of plenty. This has profound implications on how we treat other human beings or groups especially the less able

6) It is not true that competition alone is the impetus for innovation. Cooperation to solve urgent problems can have the same effect.

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General Paper Essay Outline : ‘You only live once (YOLO).’ Should this be the philosophy that everyone lives by ?

Stand : It can be argued that every person could have opportunities to apply this philosophy to bring them happiness and other benefits. However, there are some risks that are not worth taking.

1)      This philosophy connotes spontaneity and verve for life, as well as other positive attributes such as a sense of wonder and excitement. The human personality becomes more alive. Otherwise, life would be too mundane. Could we be like walking corpses, especially in the modern world that can underwhelm us with long days and routines or overwhelm us with expectations ?

2) Also, encourages a greater openness to accepting challenges and unpredictable situations with optimism.

YOLO is about grabbing opportunities before they slip us by (and possibly not return), or striking while the iron is hot.

3)      However, this philosophy seems to promote self over others. YOLO also suggests recklessness. Possible harm to self

4)      Some decisions – and their outcomes – cannot be retracted. Some decisions have to be timely and better outcomes could come from more careful consideration and better preparation

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General Paper Essay Outline : Wealth and religion are incompatible. Discuss.

Disclaimer : Here are just some points. this outline is not to be taken as the only or final answer to the question.

They are compatible :
1) Wealth is needed to support, help manifest some of the values promoted by the religion like charity, saving or helping others

2)Wealth for independence – poverty can subject a person to the whims of others who could restrict him from practising his religion fully.

3) For evangelical purposes – preaching, may involve extensive travel or large scale charity effort etc

However, wealth becomes incompatible with religion when …

1) The means of acquiring that wealth contradicts religious teachings – cheating, exploitation, stealing, corruption etc.

2) Wealth is used in ways that go against religious teachings – decadence, wastefulness, promotion of sinful deeds like gambling or prostitution

3) The love of wealth distracts a person from other priorities that religion stipulates e.g. other-worldly ideals; that you can’t really take the wealth with you when you go

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General Paper Essay Outline : How important are memories ?

Disclaimer : Here are just some points. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only, or the final answer, to this question.

warning handle with care

Important !

Happy memories are great conversation starters; keep people together to some degree

To learn from the past – avoid mistakes, get motivated; learning to face bad memories (sometimes professional help is required), instead of denying them, is part of emotional recovery from trauma

Memories are a yardstick by which we make sense of our current state or current events e.g. how to know happiness, if you do not have memories of grief or sadness etc.

Memories shape our identity. Sometimes this is most poignantly evident among people who lose their memory – they lose their sense of self, and their connection with others esp. their loved ones

Our collective memories, when pieced together, give us an understanding of history

So important is this act of amalgamating memories that the act of suppressing certain memories from being shared can actually result in the omission of perspectives from our knowledge of history. This is how history can be manipulated.

The importance of memories has resulted in theories and the practice of behaviour modification. Behaviour modification relies on a person’s ability to regard his  memories of reward and punishment as a gauge of the outcomes of his intended actions. He then proceeds to commit, or refrain from, the act with the expectation of reward or relief from punishment respectively. There is much debate on whether this method is truly effective, or whether it causes other harms.


Not very important !

Bad memories may a haunt a person and be debilitating.

The same can be said for relationships where burying the hatchet is a means to repair broken ties, but not forgetting does not help the relationship move forward.

Can we trust memories ? Read here :
and  read here :

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General Paper Essay Outline : Can we trust science to solve the problems we face in today’s world ?

Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only, or the final answer to the question.

warning handle with care

Interesting & Relevant Readings :

How do you know that you can trust science?

-          When it works (Is there evidence?) – environmental problems, poverty (GM food), and social problems

-          We can trust science if there are ways for us to ascertain that the motives of scientists are indeed for the welfare of the those in need

Why not?

-          Negative effects even though it is used to solve problems = over-reliance, raises ethical concerns, lack of regulation

-          Accessibility / pricing

-          When scientist do things for profit or fame (commercialization)

-          Are the results of the research ? Does the product actually work ?

-          Do the users use properly for the best effects ?

-          Science cannot solve problems that have other underlying or root problems (such as greed, superiority etc.)

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General Paper Essay Outline : Should governments regulate scientific research / medical science ?

Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only, or the final answer, to this question.

warning handle with care

Some really good and succinct articles :

Read this piece only if you have a whole lot of time :



Interpretations :

What are the roles of the government ? - progress (economic growth, social stability); security

How can a government regulate ? – laws, incentives, rules / guidelines, checks & monitoring

What parts of scientific research can be regulated ?

- the product (What to research : harmful or beneficial)

- the process (How the research is carried out ; the extent of the research : any harm ? exploitation ? violation of moral boundaries ?)



Stand : Governments should regulate scientific research so that the research is beneficial to the masses, but governments should not control to the extent of hindering the progress of the research.




  1. Utilitarian principle - greatest good for the majority + prevent harm to the public, end-users
  2. Set moral standards for society >>> Social stability – regulate what could be controversial and divisive
  3. Critical, sensitive research (e.g. defence) needs to be regulated, (groups of) scientists unauthorised by the state should be prohibited
  4. Economic growth  -  determine which research is potentially lucrative
  5. Prevent exploitation of end-users, test subjects, the environment etc



But do not regulate to the point of retarding scientific development. Here are some arguments against regulation :

  1. If other parties do better, then reduce regulation - Other may have better resources than the government + To increase competition amongst them
  2. Regulation prevents innovation and restricts the scientists from potential discoveries
  3. Government could implement regulatory policies based on simplistic or even alarmist views


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General Paper Essay Outline : Should the public have more say in how their country is governed ?

Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only, or the final, answer to this question

warning handle with care

Interpretation :

more = a greater degree or extent as compared to the past or even the present

What does it mean to have a ‘say’ in ‘how their country is governed’ ?

Affecting government decisions, plans :

- vote in representative democracies ; referendum

- consultative style with various avenues to give feedback

- working committees that include people from a variety of sectors


  1. It is their right to speak up for themselves, or on behalf of others. In democratic societies, the people’s desire for more say is part of the efforts to keep the government that they have elected accountable.
  2. Giving people more say can avert turning deep grievances that are suppressed into an uproar. The government can build its relationship with the people in order to make genuine improvements. This is to prevent the relationship from deteriorating to the point that citizens feel that either they will turn to the ballot box (or the streets!) as their last resort.
  3. Create a wider pool of ideas from which to put together the best possible solutions to problems
  4. The impact of an educated society  -  When people are more educated, they can make better contributions + as the entire society become more educated, it becomes more likely that the government will not have a monopoly on the best ideas
  5. Promote an inclusive society. This is especially important as the society becomes more diverse = also enhances sense of belonging and ownership.


  1. Opposition can disrupt duty of government = White House shutdown
  2. Too many cooks spoil the broth : Is the best plan necessarily borne out of greater consultation ? No, not necessarily
  3. The vocal minority that are the loudest = may sway the government stand
  4. Does a more educated society necessarily mean the contributions will be well-considered ones that are taken with a long-term view and with a helicopter perspective ? No, not necessarily because some of the views from a more educated crowd could still be very much self-serving, albeit more intellectually articulated.


Resolution :

Let the public have more say.

But several other initiatives have to be seriously implemented . First, there must also be more public education on the pertinent issues that the government has to face. Second, the work of community building must be augmented. These will better the chances of nurturing people who will use their voice to speak up for the benefit of the society as a whole as well as for the most vulnerable members of society while understanding the constraints the government.

The government has the unenviable task of deciding which of the people’s views to take and which ones to reject or modify. Whatever its choices, the government has to be open and transparent in explaining its decisions in order to prevent resentment from taking root.

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General Paper Essay Outline : Has technology taken over from teachers ? Do schools still have a future?

This link has some points that could be re-worked to suit these Schools-versus-Tech questions.

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General Paper Essay Outline : Discuss the impact of technology on children

Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only and the final answer to this question.

warning handle with care



Positive outcomes :

aids in their learning (various audio-visual stimuli and activation of psycho-motor skills for learning, increases their independence due to wide range to things to learn about beyond what is taught in school)

increases their contact with others; they can learn the technology-driven way of communication which will be their reality in the future anyway  (e.g. supervised participation on social networking sites)


Negative outcomes :

promotes aggressive behaviour in children e.g. overexposure from playing games with heavy violence influence like gta

exposure to material that is not age-appropriate especially when internet security and booking systems are not put in place

adversely affects their relationships with people as their ability to socialize is lowered due to spending most of their time with technology instead of with real people; technology is a poor baby-sitter

lowers their attention span - moving pictures and texts in videos impede the brain’s ability to process static text i.e. impact on reading, concentration, memory and learning


lowers their health e.g. myopia ; sedentary lifestyle

increase in social vices – vulnerable to online predators


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General Paper Essay Outline : ‘We should always strive to extend our life expectancy.’ Comment.

Disclaimer : Here are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be the only, or the final, answer to this question


warning handle with care



Stand : I do not agree that this is an aim that we should always strive for.

(1) The desire to extend our life expectancy gives us incentive to make best use of science i.e. push scientists to discover cure for terminal illnesses, produce better food, improve sanitation and hygiene standards. Our quality of life improves in the course of this striving.

(2) Countries with a lower life expectancy are economically backward because their lower life expectancy causes the people to make decisions that affect the overall development of society. They may have more children, since infant mortality is expected to be high. They do not put in as much effort to get educated or maximise their potential for the long run because of the fewer years that they have to live. This means that extending life expectancy can have positive implications on the development of the country.

(3) However, beyond helping developing societies progress, we should not strive to extend our life expectancy because it may create problems like overpopulation
- finite resources (like food, space, medical facilities and experts) to fulfil too many people’s wants and needs, especially if there are too many people who are not working due to their advanced age

(4) In addition, is this scientific effort drawing resources away from other crucial or urgent matters ?

(5) There is moral motivation for trying to extend life, such as to encourage people to make full use of life or for them to give and get more from their relationships with their loved ones. However, such an ideal situation makes some assumptions that those whose lives can be prolonged will be in good physical and mental health to make the most of their extended lives. These assumptions may fall short of reality.

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General Paper Essay Outline : International sporting success is not dependent on a large population. Discuss.

Disclaimer : The outline below provides some ideas, and is not to be taken as the only or final answer to the question.

warning handle with care

Stand : I agree that a country with a smaller population than other countries can achieve international sporting success, with the aid of resources and strategic planning.

Those who believe in the need for a large population as being essential to a country’s sporting success argue that …

1) Larger talent pool to choose from.

More games played at the national level / formation of competitive national leagues in order for the best talent to rise

This means that countries with a smaller population size would need to import foreign talent to give their sports scene a boost

2) There could be a concern that the search for and grooming of sports achievers could hurt other aims such as talent development for economic pursuits when the country has far fewer people to do many essential jobs.

Those who think that that international sporting succeed need not be dependent on a large population argue that this is possible….

3) if the country puts in resources to groom their local sportsmen for the international stage.

invest in coaches and supporting institutions like well-equipped sports school, spend to send them for overseas to competition if the local competition circuit is too small.

4) if the country strategises to raise its hopes for success.

Start young.

Promote a sporting culture in society.

While there is a need to support the growth of unique individuals who show great potential, there is also a need to look at which sports can be most suitably developed among the general population (e.g. most Asians may not be traditional successful in sports where a sportsman’s larger build becomes his natural advantage. Thus Asian countries may want to cultivate the culture of loving other sports that make use of other strengths)

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General Paper Essay Outline : Education and Financial Gain

(Q) Should education be solely for financial gain ?

Disclaimer : This outline is still open for discussion. It is not meant to be taken as the best, the only, or the final answer to the question.

Note : This question has a (1) ‘Should’ prompt, an (2) Absolute Word that demands (3) Comparison, and is concerned with the link to (4) Money. Please be alert enough to see the multiple requirements of the question before you decide whether or not to attempt it.


It should not.

1)      The true meaning of education includes the development of the individual’s potential; achieving financial gain is simply a practical yet superficial goal. While we recognize that the state may be focused on getting the people ready to join the workforce, each person is different and denying people a chance to develop their innate abilities goes against the higher aims of education. In fact, in our globalized world, better transport and open societies actually tempt those who feel unfulfilled to migrate, resulting in a greater loss of talent for the economy and the society

2)      Education is meant to support the survival of the society as a whole, so it cannot be solely about making money since society needs more than just money to survive. Society needs a set of values that will see it through thick and thin, in times of prosperity and paucity. These values such as love and care for others, unity and a sense of belonging to the country can be taught in schools to raise generation upon generation of people who will be selfless and not let social inequalities divide them. These values become even more crucial as countries grow economically and income gaps may widen or as countries become more entrenched in the volatile global economy.

3)      The purpose of education is to nurture active and critical thinkers, not just professionals who are merely income generators. Countries today face multitudinous problems including political succession, environmental woes, health threats and even the scourge of terrorism. These are over and above issues linked to making money such as diversification, research and development and urban planning. Schools must take on the challenge of equipping students with the tools to tackle with the known and unknown, economic or otherwise.

Above all, thinking should be among the primary aims of education, because thinking and knowledge are indicators of how learned a person is and how successful the education programme is. However, thinking – be it mathematical, philosophical, creative or in any other form – can be disruptive to the status quo because it involves questioning and demands debate. States that feel that this could derail their economic or political agenda may downplay this specific purpose of education, but in the long- run, the dearth of ideas and solutions could become more apparent, especially on the economic front.

4)      Having said the above, one may wonder whether there is ever a situation where making money becomes justified as the only purpose of education. One could posit that such a circumstance arises when the country is suffering from abysmal levels of literacy that keep the populace unemployable, severely hampering economic development. So acute is the problem that the government should be extremely focused on improving the lives of the people by educating and equipping them with the skills they need to earn  a living or the knowledge (such as health and family planning) to keep them work-ready.


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General Paper Essay Outline : To what extent does the media have a negative impact on young people today ?

Disclaimer : This is just an outline that is still open to discussion. It is not meant to be the only, the best, or the final answer to the question.

Note : The media is no longer one-way or top-down in its approach. New media and social media can be manipulated by its users. This interactive quality adds a new dimension to the points below



When Marshall McLuhan famously wrote about television – the new media of his time – he proclaimed ‘the medium is the message’. Today the multifarious platforms that collectively form mass media have indeed conveyed very transformational messages to young people about how they can either influence or be influenced by the media. Whether the impact is positive or negative depends greatly on the maturity of the young people or the controls set in their respective societies.

To begin with, the maturity of young audiences has a tremendous part to play in how their process the content presented in the media. The impressionable or gullible among them are more susceptible to …

Changing their values and attitudes for the worse

Believing without evaluating or critically analysing

Following trends blindly

E.g. materialism, image consciousness, unhealthy ideas about sexuality, desensitisation to violence

However, despite such disturbing outcomes, the existence of mature and responsible young people helps restore some hope that the media does not simply result in pernicious consequences

Education – critical thinking, media literacy responsible action, positive initiatives, enterprise, talent development

Apart from the young people’s mentality and wisdom, the limits and guidelines set for the society has a pivotal role to play in determining the content that young people can gain access to as well as the extent to which they can act on any ideas that they are exposed to.

The role of censorship, advertising guidelines

The availability of avenues for help when young people get in trouble

The prohibition of activities or items (like guns, drugs) that encourage young people to emulate what they see without thinking

Young people have to deal with the media very carefully, because the media can shape a person

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General Paper Essay Outline : How interconnected are the problems that countries face today ?

Extremely. On many fronts, the fate of one country is inextricably intertwined to that of other countries, especially its neighbours.

1) A country can face problems because its economic partner faces problems.

2) Environmental concerns are never localised. The region, or the whole world, is affected.

3) Technology has exacerbated the potential for global crime syndicates or terrorist networks.

4) However, good government can also prevent a country from being (severely) affected by the problems that other countries face. (plan B ? diversification & spreading risk ? planning ahead ?)

5)It could also be a case of one country’s bad luck becoming another country’s good fortune

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General Paper Essay Outline : Criticisms against democracy

The outline in the slides provide one-sided criticisms of democracy.
It responds to the question : Discuss the claim that democracy promises, but rarely delivers.

What are the strengths of democracy ?

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General Paper Essay Outline : Are traditional gender roles still relevant ?

already presented in Term 1

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General Paper Essay Outline : How far should businesses be concerned with ethics ?

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General Paper Essay Outline : Affluence is a blessing, not a curse. Do you agree ?

Interpretations :
Affluence = abundant wealth, including money and material possessions/assets
Blessing = benefit                      Curse = detriment, harm
To whom ? = to those with, and those without, the affluence (individuals, families, societies/countries, businesses)


Thesis Statement :
Affluence is a blessing, but it can become a curse if it is used as a tool that benefits only select groups, at the expense of others.


Body Paragraphs :

1. Affluence helps individuals and families get more of the things they need and want
a. List : food, education, housing, medical care, private transport
i. Case of education in UK : According to BBC, 57% of parents polled would want to remove their children from
the state school system if they could afford it, citing quality of education, discipline and class size as their
main concerns
b. luxuries, enjoyment : e.g. S’pore residents made 4.4 million trips abroad in 2001 (up from 1.6 million in 1991)

2. Affluent societies have a headstart in development
a. rich nations have more investments in infrastructure, technology, research & development, high value products
e.g. S’pore : among the most connected cities in the world – aims to be medical and banking hub in Asia

3. Being affluent means having the capital to increase wealth even further
a. investments in property and businesses
i. expanding and diversifying business
e.g. Facebook (from start-up to global company); Sg billionaire Peter Lim (wide range of investments
from Wilmar International’s oil palm to Thomson Medical Centre to FJ Benjamin fashion distributor)
ii. buying up start-ups or angel investment
e.g. Computer security company McAfee bought S’pore start-up tenCube, the company that created mobile
security service, Wave Secure
iii. rental income e.g. tracks the rental market for investors worldwide
iv. stocks and shares
b. government investments
i. Sg’s Government Investment Corporation (GIC)’s portfolio :
42% in the Americas, 26% in Europe, 29% in Asia

4. Affluence oils the cogs of our consumption-driven economy
a. Consumption is the main feature for measuring the economic health of a country
i. C + I + G + (X-M) = GDP    - for better GDP, the country and its people must have the power to spend
          ii. e.g. S’pore’s GDP per capita is around $60 000 vs Democratic Republic of Congo’s ($300)
b. better products, more variety of products will be available to meet the demands of a richer nation
i. e.g. international brand names in S’pore, but counterfeit goods in poorer countries
c. trickle-down effect ; multiplier effect
– when there is more wealth, even the less well-off will gain
when the affluent use their services or employ them, or give to them in charity

5. Affluence helps people, businesses and nations pull through an economic slowdown to some degree
a. More resources – List : savings, reserves, assets to sell
i. Case : S’pore – $240 billion (2012 figures) – 2009 was the first time that the President gave  approval for the
government to draw out reserves after 2008 global financial meltdown
b. But the poor have far less disposable income – can save very little

6. There is a link between affluence and independence
a. Poor, and especially war-torn countries – less money, little R&D – not able to develop.
Instead, they are dependent on mining, but are being exploited by multinationals
Case of Sierra Leone : biggest contracts for mining have gone to London Mining and African Minerals (listed in
London). The corporations received substantial tax breaks, which some say go against the mining act that is
meant to protect against resource predation. Much development is geared towards facilitating the work of
these corporations
b. Among ordinary citizens, affluence helps people avoid jobs that subject them to exploitation
Case of China : abuse of workers at Foxconn – reports of workers locked in plant; suicide of worker following
loss of prototype; other pay-related suicides

However, affluence can be a curse when it is not properly managed, or when it is used to entrench one’s position at the expense of others.

1.Affluence becomes a curse when those who are rich do not manage their wealth properly.
a. contributes to transgressions, or even crimes.
i. List : excessive spending (living the high life to the point of debt), gambling, alcoholism, drugs, going to
prostitutes etc.
ii.Case : Gambling is one of the primary causes of debt in the US,
but the industry is worth $550 billion per annum
iii.This is not to say that the poor will not face these problems, but there are some forms of vice and crime
that pose a possible temptation only if people have more means to even begin contemplating such a choice
iv. They suffer emotionally and eventually financially, and so do their families.
b. Bad risk management à heavy losses in investments or at the stock market
The option of making an investment is not available to begin with for those who are not rich.

2. Affluence can encourage negative values or attitudes among people
a. materialism – buy because we can, not because we need; encouraging debt à bad for the environment too
b. competitiveness within society; status-consciousness
c. can lead to disdain for local, traditional products (loss of culture) in favour of posh-sounding imports
d. money can solve everything (when it cannot)
i. Case : Addiction to plastic surgery; using plastic surgery to solve body image insecurities
2/3 of plastic surgery patients are repeat patients
ii. Corruption – Money can even buy justice
Case : Bo Xilai’s wife – murder of UK businessman Neil Heywood.
China, having been accused of corruption at high levels, is under pressure to show that its
justice system is not corrupt
iii. Family ties : Compensate for absence with material goods

3.Affluence becomes a curse to society when there are problems of distribution leading to inequality
a. When wealth is inherited or earned through hard work, there can be greater insensitivity to the plight of the
poor à it’s their fault à they do not deserve help
b. Case : S’pore – highest concentration of millionaires in the world, but second highest income gap in the world
– the act of blaming the poor can be seen as a contributor to the policies that do not help reduce inequality
e.g. govt adamant against minimum wage even though wages of menial workers is extremely low when
compared other developed countries
e.g. price of public housing increased more times than the rise in income
c. When wealth is seen as only enjoyed by a specific group (e.g. people of Chinese descent in Indonesia)
à social unrest

4.The economy’s reliance on affluence causes problems for all countries within this global economic order
a. Consumption-driven, debt-based economy – too reliant on spending
- If the biggest markets for goods (US , Europe) slow down consumption, the other countries are affected.
b. Irresponsible, fraudulent printing of money just to keep up the facade of wealth needed to boost spending & debt

5. Affluence can kill enterprise
a. When large players buy out start-ups and small companies, or use economies of scale to squeeze them out
i. e.g. Microsoft Windows comes with Internet Explorer (end of Netscape Navigator)
ii. e.g. Google acquired Jaiku, but did little to develop it, causing Jaiku users to migrate en masse to Twitter.
Many others cases of neglect by rich companies that buy out small players

6. The wealthy, corporations and some lobby groups use their affluence to influence policies
a. Case of US : Pro-rich policies (such as cuts to capital gains tax) did not lead to the ‘trickle-down’ effect as expected,
and in fact did not prevent the second largest economic collapse of the past 100 years.
In short, the rich did not spread / share their wealth very much.
But now, when Obama tries to tax the rich, he faces fierce opposition.

b. – non-partisan group that monitors money’s influence on US elections and public policy

Resolution :
Having said all of the above, affluence is essentially a blessing. Our daily experiences of enjoying the many things we have are testament to this. However, affluence is not without challenges. We can do much more – as individuals, a society or a nation – so that affluence becomes less of a curse. For this to happen, we need to re-envision affluence as a responsibility – not just a source of pleasure and power.

Any other ideas ?

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General Paper Essay Outline : Should the state intervene in matters of life and death ?

[INTRO] The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by members of the United Nations in 1948 to show their in-principle support for the preservation of the fundamental rights of people. However, because states are not bound to uphold the articles of the Declaration to their fullest extent, some of these rights have been curtailed to varying degrees, including the rights pertaining to matters of life and death. Governments do so by enacting laws, setting regulations or providing incentives that either directly or indirectly affect these matters such as anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia or pro-choice legislation, population control policies and the death penalty. While governments could argue that they have just cause for their actions, the extent of their intervention should not lead to a complete usurpation of the individual’s basic freedom.

[BP 1] If the state were to be consistent with the UN Declaration, then it should intervene insofar that its decisions reflect an impassioned pro-life position. Nobel Peace Laureate Sean Macbride said that by extending the understanding of the Declaration, then one could propose the ‘right to refuse to kill’ as an article that would be compatible to the others … …

[BP 2 – opposing view] States that oppose this might actually deem this the soft approach that dulls their ability to use their full authority when they need it … …

[BP 3 – counter] The argument above opens up a human rights minefield because of the potential for the state’s abuse of power. How should the state draw the line ? Here is one possible answer : the state should preserve life, and in so doing if it has to kill in order to save the lives of many, then it should go ahead and do so

[BP 4] On the other hand, one could argue that there are other means that states should apply to approach the desired effect, without resorting to an encroachment of the rights of individuals … …

[Resolution / Wrap-Up] The state has a duty to the people, but it also cannot use this duty as a pretext to consciously limit the opportunity for life. While the state has to take care of the greater good, the state should also be held to a higher standard, beyond just the ability to control the masses and maintain order using Machiavellian means. I agree with state intervention as long as it is underpinned by veneration of Life.

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Meet All Question Requirements / Relevance is Everything

A revision piece from last term. Always remember : RELEVANCE is EVERYTHING.

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Interpretation Practice / Review – because starting right matters

These slides are from last term.

Here are some of the earlier posts that pertain to the value of interpretation :

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General Paper Essay Outline : Should we be concerned that our country has wealth, but its people have less freedom ?

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General Paper Essay Outline : Should people be allowed to have children by artificial means ?

Ideally, ….

(1)    We would like to think that we can use the advanced technology that we have to help people realise their right to choose to have a child. After all, the right to choose the course of one’s life is widely-accepted as a natural right of a free person.

(2)    Moreover, helping individuals and couples realise this right could help countries that want to boost their countries’ birth rate achieve this aim

(3)    A country could stand to gain in several areas if it decides to allow and facilitate this process. This is a branch of science that is potentially lucrative (treatment requires specialised staff, equipment) – can be a niche development for the country. Country can pioneer or lead developments in this area – good for its reputation.


However, in reality it is unfeasible to allow just anybody to have to children by artificial means.

(1)    The government is more concerned with the greatest good for the greatest number, rather than distributing resources to give everyone a chance to have a child – reproductive technologies are very costly but resources could be urgently needed in other areas – unsuccessful treatment = money is wasted

(2)    It is not entirely wrong for the government to use wealth (the ability to pay for treatment) as a measure for deciding who should be allowed to use reproductive technologies. It could be in the best interest of the child to be born into a family with sufficient finances.

(3)    In the best interest of the child, the health and ability of the prospective parents should be considered. This means that people with certain extreme disabilities should not be allowed to have children by artificial means because their ability to raise the child without great assistance is questionable.

(4)    Another common yardstick to gauge whether a woman is suitable to undergo artificial reproduction treatment is the state of her own health. While she may wish very much to have a child, she must be informed of all the risks. Her family members or her physician might even play a part in advising against undue risk to herself because the potential of her losing her life will have implications on the child’s, should it still be born without a mother.

(5)    Allowing just anyone to have a child because technology can now facilitate this can have implications on the conventional or traditional structure of the family. If the society is not prepared for this social transformation and upheavals to the moral status quo, then artificial reproduction should be confined to heterosexual married couples.

(6)    What about children without parents ? Do we need a great shift in attitude about having children so that more will adopt or foster children who need families, instead of trying beyond natural means to have their own ?

(Outline has about 460 words)

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GENERAL PAPER ESSAY OUTLINE on religion in contemporary society


Quote from Prof Jackie Ying, Executive Director of Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology from the Sunday Times 7/4

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Are sporting events just about money ?

Money is one significant motive, but it is not the only one. Sporting events are not just about money.

- promote goodwill between participating clubs or countries

- promote noble values like sportsmanship, teamwork, resilience

- promote high standards in sports – talent grooming

- cause for national pride and personal glory

Despite these noble aims, the prospect of making money stands out as a prominent aim of sports today.

- chance to earn a living, break out of poverty, get super-rich

- sports-related industries grow - money pumped into training, equipment, expertise, infrastructure + money made from ticket sales & viewership + trading players

- non-sports industries grow – tourism, food & beverage, hotels, paraphernalia production and sales, advertising, sponsorship – rotate host cities, so a different city gets to experience this sort of growth

- cheating cases – shows that sportsmen obsess over money & fame

- selectivity of sports – commercial purpose

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GENERAL PAPER ESSAY OUTLINE : Does technology help or hinder communication ?

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General Paper Essay Outline : Should gambling be legalised ?

Note : Do not argue against your own sense of right or wrong. The intention is to write a good essay without ‘selling out’. If you feel strongly against gambling, what would your most defensible arguments be ? Would you be able to re-apply some of the arguments found above ?

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General Paper Essay : The only form of governance that should exist in today’s world is a democratic one. How far do you agree?

Note : This essay was written by a JC2 student under timed conditions. Little editing has been done. This essay is open for discussion, and is not meant to be taken as the best answer to this question.




Based on history, men have witnessed how governments around the world have been shaped over time. In particular, the fall of political regimes such as Mubarak’s regime in Egypt that came as a result of the Arab Spring in 2011 has sparked questions whether democracy is the ideal form of governance. The outlook of today’s world is one that is engaged with globalisation, and its accompanying issues. On one hand, critics have claimed that the government in today’s world should exist solely as a democratic one as it creates an inclusive society which will benefit the nation as a whole. On the other hand, pragmatists have argued that democratic governments should not simply be the way out, as every system has its flaws and may not fit the contexts of different societies. Thus, it is my stand to disagree that the only form of government that should exist is a democratic one, as I believe that no system is impeccable.

To begin with, those who firmly believe in democracy do so due to the high prospects that the system would give. In today’s context, most autocratic regimes are largely the less developed countries where many are living in less than satisfactory conditions with stagnated economies and are fraught with many societal issues. Compare this to the more developed countries that are largely democratic, where prospects are deemed to be brighter for the people and conditions are markedly better. Thus, there is good reason to support a democratic form of government. A quintessential example was the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, an event that was sparked by the people who believed that the democratisation of the government was necessary. The primary driving force for the fall of the communist regime was due to the extreme unhappiness of the people who were largely poor and the ineffectiveness of the communist government to solve the chronic problems. As compared to the outer parts of Europe, the Soviet Union at that point in time was considered underdeveloped and had fallen largely behind. This example shows such high hopes that the democratic models gave. There was an expectation that a democratic government was the only form of government that should exist.

In addition, optimists believe that the only form of government that should exist in today’s world ought to be a democratic one as they believe that the system would give the freedom and the rights that the people truly needed. In non-democratic countries, freedom is a luxury to the people as many people have been oppressed by the government, leaving them with little personal rights. Fear and pressure are the tools that are primarily used in those governments to subjugate the people. An example that shows the usage of such tools is Syria, where the leader Bashir Assad undertook brutal acts to suppress and to manipulate his people so as to conceal his serious war crimes and the acts of corruption. This left the people to be manipulated be higher authority and left them helpless. Thus from here, we can see the brutal conditions and the lack of the access to the basic necessities of men made optimists believe that democratic government is the ideal way of governance.

Lastly, critics have claimed that democratic governments should be the only form of government to exist in today’s world as it serves the needs and demands of their respective countries. Having a more democratic government gives people a better say that serves as an alternative voice to the government. This is the panacea that ineffective governments would need, which helps them to review the current policies that serve the needs better. In addition, a democratic government helps to build an inclusive society, making the government less vulnerable to breakdowns and tensions with the people. An example was the speech given by Low Thia Kiang during the general elections last year. In his rallying speech, he said that a more democratic country would allow the opposition and the people to act as the supervisor to “slap” the driver, which was the government, when the policies are not on the right track. From these points of view, it seems that a fully democratic government is the only government that should exist in today’s world.

Be that as it may, one should understand that no governmental system is ideal. All systems have its flaws and have its set of problems to be dealt with. In a democratic system, giving too much power to the people may be detrimental and may cause backlash against current policies. Today, developed countries were encumbered by economic woes. People who were given the might of freedom may impede the action of the government policies and the pace of development, as some may not acknowledge the situation and the problems and are unwilling to change. This means democratic governments may face stumbling blocks when the government needs to undertake publicly unpopular but yet vital actions, making the situation worse. An apt illustration would be the countries of the Euro zone, such as Spain and Greece, where many workers went on with prolonged strikes and riots when the governments conceded to the requests of the IMF to adopt austerity measures. The situation resulted in political instability and worsened their already fragile domestic economies, to the extent that they were almost kicked out of the Euro zone. Such illustrations show that there has to be a limit to democracy, and hint to us that it does not work in all countries.

Furthermore, one will argue that a democratic government does bring in new problems. One has to acknowledge that the behaviour of people is not uniform and thus not everyone should be given the same amount of power that they presumably deserve, as they have to be controlled to a certain extent. The new problems that take roots on the society could be hard to eradicate. An example is the USA. Being a nation where the beliefs of self-determination and freedom are deeply entrenched, the right to bear arms has led to widespread gun ownership, and poor gun control. The recent case of the cinema shooting tragedy in Aurora was a reminder that this freedom needs some restraint. From here, we can see that democratic government is definitely not the way out of all situations, and an even exacerbate problems instead.

In conclusion, one has to know that democratic system is definitely not a flawless jewel that should be used in all governments. While democracy advocates freedom, this has to be taken with caution and has to consider the socio-economic factors that could possibly influence the society, or the world. That said, while the triumph against political regimes of the likes of Mubarak undoubtedly heralds a new beginning, it does not spell the end of the problems of governance.

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General Paper Essay : To what extent does a country benefit from foreign involvement in its affairs ?

Note : This essay was written by a JC2 student under timed conditions. Little editing has been done. This essay is open for discussion, and is not meant to be taken as the best answer to this question.




Foreign involvement occurs when other countries or organisations attempt to assist or participate in a country’s affairs. When a country receives foreign intervention in its affairs, the country may benefit if the help received is useful for their country and if the intentions of the foreign countries are genuine. However, it may turn out to be detrimental to the country if the foreign involvement inevitably causes conflicts with neighbouring countries. But, on a whole, whether foreign involvement benefits a country or not depends on the perspectives it is viewed in.


A country can benefit from foreign involvement in its affairs if the intentions of the foreign organisation or country are genuine and useful and the country needs their specific help. When a country is still developing and the infrastructure of the country is poor and there is a lack of highly educated people, the country may benefit from foreign involvement if the help provided is suitable. For example, in the 1970, when Singapore was still developing after becoming an independent state, there was a need for a person experienced in planning t6he infrastructure of the country and to develop the economy too. Therefore, foreign involvement from the United Nations took place and a Dr. Albert Winsemius was sent to help out. From his assistance, the infrastructure of Singapore was planned effectively, tall buildings were built and the economy of Singapore grew rapidly. This shows that foreign involvement in a country’s affairs can be very beneficial.


However, a country may end up not benefitting from the foreign involvement in its affairs as the foreign country or organisation will not just offer to provide assistance for free and will have their own ill intentions too, such as to exploit the country economically or politically. For example, when Laos were colonised in the past by the French, Laos hoped for the French to help develop their country’s infrastructure by building railways and buildings and also to provide economic assistance. But, in the end, the French exploited Laos and stripped them of their natural resources. This shows how a country may end up not benefitting from foreign involvement in its affairs if the foreign countries had ill intentions for offering to help the country.


Also, a country may not benefit from foreign involvement in their affairs especially if it is military assistance by countries is not liked by neighbouring countries and end up causing conflicts between them. For example, during the Korean War when the democratic South Korea was engaged in a war with its neighbouring countries North Korea, to the United States decided to intervene and send troops to South Korea. By doing so, it provoked China to send their own army to North Korea and this deepened the conflict and caused tension between South Korea and China to rise. Also, in 2011, when the United States and South Korea decided to hold a military exercise together, it caused North Korea to react fiercely and threaten to shoot artillery shells into South Korea. Therefore, this shows how foreign involvement may cause a country to experience negative effects especially if it involves military help or assistance.


Despite the detrimental effects a country can experience due to foreign involvement in its military affairs, it is without doubt that the country itself would inevitably benefit greatly in terms of their improved defence. For example, when the Soviet Union decided to build missile launch pads in Cuba in order to deter USA from invading Cuba and also to be able to attack USA easily, it caused relations between USA and Cuba to worsen. This led to the Cuban missile crisis which would have caused a devastating nuclear war. However, after the missile launch pads were uninstalled, the USA didn’t attempt to invade or take over Cuba anymore and instead decided to leave them alone. Hence, this shows how a country would benefit in the end after foreign involvement in its affairs despite the ill-effect it had experienced at first.


Finally, whether a country benefits from foreign involvement in its affairs really depends on the perspective one takes. In 2011, when civil war occurred in Libya and the rebels successfully overthrew their ruler, Gaddafi, with the help of the United Nations  it may have been regarded as beneficial to the country as the dictator was killed and removed. However, this is only true to the rebels. Libyans who did not support the rebels or Gaddafi strongly discouraged the war. The overthrowing of Gaddafi not only worsened the already weak economy in Libya, it caused the extensive damage to the infrastructure of Libya. After the civil war, the economy was ruined, houses hospitals and schools were destroyed and foreign investments stopped. So, in the end, although the foreign involvement in Libyan affairs by the United Nations to end Gaddafi’s rule may have been viewed as a success, the damage and mess created by the United Nations may have already inevitably destroyed the future of Libyans for decades to come.


Therefore, in a nutshell, foreign involvement in a country’s affairs can be very beneficial if the help is well managed and the intentions of the foreign country or organisation were genuine. However, it can be detrimental to the country as no foreign country will just offer help for free without having its  own vested interests. Also, it is not beneficial if the help provided causes conflicts between nations or even worse, wars. But, one cannot deny that foreign involvement would inevitably be beneficial to a country in one way or another. Therefore whether a country does benefit depends on the perspective it is viewed in. Foreign assistance can be beneficial in one respect but detrimental in another. Hence, a country will often benefit from foreign assistance but it comes with a price for the country most of the time.

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General Paper Essay : To what extent are perceptions manipulated by the media ?

Note : This essay was written by a JC2 student under timed conditions. No editing has been done. The student’s grade at the A-levels was ‘A’. This essay is open for discussion, and is not meant to be taken as the best answer to this question.


The media is a powerful tool that can be used to strongly influence and manipulate people’s views of things. With the many weapons in its arsenal, such as the newspaper, television, films and the Internet, the media has the power to influence and change our perceptions of not just things like goods through the form of advertisements, but can even manipulate our perceptions, our views of ourselves and others. It is of course possible to think independently and logically to stay true to ourselves and be able to resist the influence of the media. However, the media can also influence us subtly via subliminal messages that tweak, twitch and tug at our ideology such that our perception has actually changed without knowing it. Our perception and views of others, even ourselves are largely shaped by the media.

The media can and has always been influencing people’s perceptions of others. The media, in its various forms through channels like national television, news and to its extremes, propaganda, has been used throughout the course of modern history to greatly alter people’s perspective of others and even ourselves. A very good example of this would back in the days of World War II and before, Adolf Hitler gained control of Germany and managed to use the media and turn the country against the Jews. At the same time, he also used propaganda through channels like the national television and began to attempt to create a “super race” of the German race, the “Aryans” where they were led to believe that they were more superior to the other races. Although one may argue that Hitler was able to kill the Jews and attempt to create the Aryans because of the military might he held, we know for a fact that many people, the younger generations especially, had their whole perspective of themselves and others warped and they really believed that they were superior and other races like the Jews were trash.

In today’s world, we do not see such extreme examples of the media influencing people, but there are many more happenings going on that we may not usually realise. In every country, the government does have some form of control over the media to varying degrees and they do use it to manipulate our views of others and themselves. Using the more local context of Singapore, most of Singapore’s citizens feel that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has been doing a very good job governing Singapore. This is largely true, but is it really as good, smooth and efficient as it seems? There is no doubt that the PAP is a good government, the fact that it has remained in power for so long means of the democratic system of voting proves it, but however, it is for sure that various government policies may not go as well as expected, perhaps with a deficit running somewhere, but the government can control the media and cover it up or perhaps, downplay the problem to make it seem more efficient. Conversely, the media can also be used by the government to change people’s view towards other groups. In Singapore, we are a multiracial society where everyone regardless race, language or religion. This is definitely in part, brought about by the media. An example of this would be in most local production of films and series, in almost every show, there will be people from different races having really good racial cohesion with each other. This form of subliminal messaging actually influences the locals to be more accepting to others, it encourages us to be more than tolerant and form friendships and bonds with people from other races which is a good thing! We do not usually realise such things but the media does shape our perspective towards ourselves and others greatly.

Of course, now with society being more educated, people do see through these little things in the media and do not resist the influence. Self-proclaimed dissident of Singapore, Gopalan Nair has raised many issues regarding the governing of Singapore which definitely stands against the news and media that are usually proposes. He does raise some valid concerns which make people pause and think logically and intelligently, and come up with their own perceptions of things. Many a time, with education we do realise that many things in the media are not what they seem. It is impossible to resist the influence that the media has on us and more often than not, we are unaware. In order to get alternative views of, for example, Singapore’s governing system, we turn from our newspapers, news television programmes to the Internet, be it Mr Goplan Nair’s site or others. Should we want to voice our perceptions, it would also be through a form of media. We can see that almost all our perceptions of ourselves and the world is shaped by media somehow.

That is all on the level of a society or a country. From the individual level, our perspectives of self and others are also manipulated. If the media like advertisements can sell products and create imaginary differences between others, the media can sell views and perceptions too! People argue that the media cannot change things like our moral values as our internal compass will tell us what is right and wrong. This is not true to a large degree however. An example of this would be the rapidly growing “emo culture” in other countries like America. The media in various places has labeled these people who are just like any other humans many various names and stereotype this group of people. On the side of people in such groups or culture, they will suffer a great blow to their self-esteem and also, parents change the perspectives on this group due to the media and prevent their children for being true to themselves. On the other hand, it changes their perspectives of the people belonging to the emo culture do not deserve to live and even incite people to be violent against those of emo culture.

The manipulation of our perspectives by the media will continue on to shape our views of others and ourselves in many various, different levels. We will only be able to free ourselves from such manipulation only if we come up with our own perspectives of things and have an unbiased point of view. The perceptions of ourselves and others, is and will continue to be manipulated by the media to a large extent and will not be stopped.

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General Paper Essay : To what extent has the media empowered people ?

Note : Student writing. Little editing has been done. This essay is open for discussion, and is not meant to be taken as the best answer to the question.


This generation is one that is so technologically savvy that many have termed the era as the Facebook and twitter generation. Significantly, the media be it new or traditional forms or platforms that disseminate information quickly and efficiently to the majority, are tools of influence that are valued within the society. While on one hand, the media and its influence subconsciously controls and disempowers people, it is indubitable to note that the media is significant as a weapon, or a tool that protects oneself from the ravages of the modern society and one that is used in the pursuit of attaining a better livelihood. This weapon gives people the power, confidence and authority to carve out a life of their own that is free from oppression and the challenges of the modern world. Therefore, it is without a doubt that the media is a weapon that empowers people. However, when the media is controlled or manipulated by the higher authorities such that the majority is being dispelled out from the rights to control their own lives, the media is not a weapon of the masses. In fact, it is used as a weapon against them.

The media has empowered people and has allowed access to information and this information has accorded people with greater and control to decide and have an input in their daily lives. In the consumerist world, the media is being used by businesses as a tool to advertise and promote their products so as to attain consumer confidence in their products. The advent of such occurrences among the majority of firms has empowered consumers with information, knowledge and choice such that they are able to decide and weigh between products; they are able to make decisions because they have the knowledge to do so. The media is used as a tool to protect consumers from being cheated by others and in this context, the increase in information no longer makes them gullible to fall into the traps by profit-driven firms. Consumers are now able to make informed choices in deciding over an Apple iPods and creative MP3s. Indeed, the media is a weapon that protects consumers from being preyed upon by businesses and in their venue; people are empowered because they are given the power to decide. This is also evident in the world of politics, where greater information that is available on the internet has empowered people to make informed decisions in electing their leaders. The broadcasting of presidential elections campaigns on television and the use of internet, through weblogs, social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube by electional candidates, have increased the pool of information that helps the people decide., a widely accessed political website in Malaysia has empowered the people in gaining the alternative view towards politics. Barack Obama has famously used the internet as a tool to disseminate information and engage the community in efforts to build the nation, while at the same time garnering support in the recent American Presidential Elections. In sum, the media has been empowering the masses with the availability of information, sensibly used as a weapon that protects the majority from being denied the right to make good, informed and rational decisions in life.

In addition, media has empowered the masses as it has granted people with the platform to voice out their thoughts and views. The media has allowed individuals to exercise their rights to freedom of choice. This freedom is being used as a weapon to attack those who undermine the livelihood of the wider community and hence media is used as a tool to protect the masses from the chances of living under oppression. Media platforms are available, especially through the use of new media has allowed the voices and concerns of the majority to come into focus. Activists and non-governmental organizations groups in China have used the internet as a platform to voice out their views against environmental degradation and have even conglomerated like-minded individuals to sign petitions and pressurize the higher authorities to accord improvements in areas that affect the standards of living among the community. In this manner, the media is being used as a weapon of the people to collectively get involved in efforts to improve their lives, and to bring across issues to the government and to the wider community. This effort is an empowerment to the masses : almost all of society’s concerns are well advocated for, even in small representative groups. The point is, that media has allowed individuals to get involved and participate in areas that affects their survivability and standards of living. Not only that, the media is being used effectively as a means of communication that empowers the individuals as it allows them the power to attain means that would help them in dire situations. In Philippines, the recent bout of typhoon and floods has forced victims to scale their roofs or risk drowning in the floods. In such dire circumstances, victims have maximized the use of the internet through their phone and assessed networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to seek help. This manner of communication has been effective in saving the lives of those in danger and in addition has drawn much international attention towards the plight of those in need. Significantly, the media is a weapon that protects people and accords them with the power to seek a better livelihood.

The advent of the media has empowered the masses as it has provided opportunities for even the laymen to get involved with the world of business and in this sense, individuals are able to attain monetary gains that only augment their standards of living. The media has allowed businesses to flourish. Firms that seek to engage non-price competition through advertising means has garnered substantial profits by encouraging brand loyalty among consumers. Big brands such as Nike and Adidas are highly successful because they engage in advertising to promote their products, even if advertising costs are way beyond their revenue costs. This is so because the profits retained are more rewarding. In addition, the internet has allowed individuals to make transactions online. The adventure of the internet has led to the mushrooming of blog shops or individuals setting up their shops online. Besides a low set-up cost, business transactions through this manner has allowed even amateur entrepreneurs into engaging in the world of business. Monetary gains through the use of media has boosted economic growth and evidently, it is being used as a weapon of the masses in attaining higher and better standards of living.

Despite being a tool of empowerment, the media has flaws that clearly do not empower individuals in any way. The portrayal of negative stereotypes against the weak on television and in magazines has certainly undermined the social standing of these individuals. The media is awash with gender stereotypes that exacerbate gender inequality and the level of discrimination within the society. The portrayal of men as masochists, as well as the increasing portrayal of new-age men, or heterosexual men, apart from the portrayal of female as the damsel in distress and sex symbols are highly prejudiced the society are being fed with influences and standards or ‘expectations’ by which they ought to behave. This is evidently not empowerment. In fact, the media is not used as a weapon to uphold dignity and social standing, but it oppresses individuals into living their lives bounded by societal stereotypes that only undermine their ability to distinguish themselves from the others. In this respect, media is not a weapon, and does not empower the masses in any way.

In addition, the media has not empowered people when it is under the control of the authorities. The people in power who determine the level of exposure as well as the extent of access to media platforms is clearly an act of oppression. The media in such instances are being used as a tool to disseminate propaganda and by doing so brainwashing individuals to conform to the rules and expectations of the people in power. In this respect, the masses are not able to be expressive and are controlled within ideals that are not empowering them. In such instances, media is being used as a weapon against them. Totalitarian governments such as that of North Korea imposed total control over the media and limit the penetration of media from the outside world within the community. In fact, the media is being used by the government as a tool to control and contain the masses so that they resign towards the ideals and expectations of the government. Clearly, when much control is being placed on the media, the media no longer becomes a tool of empowerment for the masses.

This idea is similarly portrayed in instances where businesses and the advent of popular culture through media the nullifies the masses into adopting consumerism and hedonism as their way of life. Where the media is manipulated to influence people’s beliefs and values, too much exposure from the media makes individuals deprived of the ability to make a sensible judgment that is not influenced by what goes on in the media. The portrayal of perfectly gorgeous models and actors on television has redefined the concept of beauty in the modern world. Increasingly, many are willing to go under the knife to emulate such beauties. In addition, the portrayal of stick-thin models has led to the surge in illnesses such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa, especially among youth today.  In this respect, media has not empowered individuals far less being a weapon. Instead, it is a tool of confining the masses in conforming to social norms that are in actual fact insidiously pre-planned.

In a nutshell, while the media has its merits where they are efficiently used as tools that empower and protect people from being oppressed under bad living conditions, the advent of the popular culture has subconsciously conditioned us to conform to ideals that suppress our own beliefs and views. In sum, the media is only a weapon and is able to empower people when they are not controlled by any form of governance and are used sensibly by the masses.

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General Paper Essay : Does the book still have a future ?

Note : This essay was written by a JC1 student under timed conditions. Little editing has been done. This essay is open for discussion, and is not meant to be taken as the best answer to the question.


          There are still some lingering objects that have withstood the elapsing of time, a prominent and loved one being books. With the advancements in technology, the importance of tools and items we used to utilize in the past, has diminished and become insignificant. Not only are books able to possess sentimental value, they can also impart potent sentiments and perspectives to the readers after they have devoured and delved into the contents of the books. The advancements in technology and the invention of gadgets to update our lifestyles has caused many items to be eliminated, an inevitable question has arisen – ‘Does the book still have a future?’ I agree that the book has a future.

          Books have proven to not be ephemeral and they are evidently timeless as they have existed for an extremely long period of time. Even till today, the twentieth century, books still possess a loyal assembly of book enthusiasts throughout the world. The satisfaction of feeling the pages of the book, of highlighting our favourite verses, of opening the books a decade after you have first read them. These are the effects and nostalgia a book is able to elicit, the sentiments that inspire us to cherish its existence and keep them safe till the end of time as we know it. Books are incomparable to the easily eradicable ‘e-book’. The content of the book in the ‘kindle’ only exists as a document and it could easily vanish with the click of a mouse or the invasion of a virus. These documents cannot be passed down from generation to generation should the gadget spoil. Therefore, in comparison, real books seem to possess an eminence over the ‘kindle’ since they are more enduring and unfading.

          Technology might be able to make books extinct. An example of an invention that in due time blatantly replaced a more dated invention is the handphone. In the past, people used to use pagers and they were commonly seen, anxiously held by businessmen and the working class people. However with the advent of handphone, the ubiquitous sight of anxious grips on pagers dwindled into obscurity. Similarly, the invention of the ‘kindle’, a book reader by ‘Amazon’ which allows people who want to read books, to download a myriad of soft copy books online and afterwards stores them into the gadget, jeopardizes the longevity of the existence of books. This is because people might opt to purchase the kindle instead of books due to the convenience and efficiency it provides. The kindle has the ability to store several books at a go and thus readers would not required carrying the heavy load of books around when they go about their daily activities. The proliferation of this gravitation towards the kindle would cause the future of books to be bleak and eventually when there are only a meagre number of people left who actually want to read books, they might even cease to be produced and become only a memory of the past.

          The ‘kindle’ and the book might seemingly serve the same purpose and people might impetuously feel that the ‘kindle’ is obviously more convenient for usage and thus more desirable. However, like other gadgets the impulse of people to purchase it would fade in due time as they might soon feel that this presence of technology would slowly become a hindrance to the process of appreciating literature, of escaping into the boundless fantasy of books. If one were to carefully rationalise, an average person would have replaced his phones countless of times. Howbeit, when was the last time we bought a book to replace the old one? We can therefore infer from this evidence that books are more tolerant of men’s careless nature and thus would still be able to retain the support of men.

          Books are like the anecdotes of humanity, documenting our thoughts, sentiments and perceptions and it would not be the same if they were to exist as any other form. Technology would not be able to encapsulate the novelty of a book and hence would not garner support. Thus, I believe that books still have a future and would endure albeit the alternatives.

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Summary of Consultation : When is something ‘too much’ ?

How can we tell that our reliance on the government/technology/statistics/the media is too much ?

Let’s use this example to show how ‘too much’ can be interpreted ?

Are we too reliant on technology ?

We are too reliant on technology when :
1) Our daily lives / day-to-day operations are disrupted without it
- the ubiquity of technology
2) We need technology for major activities or as the foundation that gets the activity going
- banking sector, modern stock market – practically impossible without technology
3) We let technology do what we can actually do for ourselves without it, making us handicapped 
- thinking skills, verbal communication, mental calculation, memory, ability to occupy ourselves & cure our own loneliness
4) We need it so much that we are willing to put up with harm to use it
- microwave (safe or not ?), internet (convenient, but what are the risks?)
- wasteful willling to spend  a lot of money to upgrade equipment

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Summary of Consultation : Where possible, re-use material to suit the question

With General Paper, your knowledge bank has to be big enough with content so that you can pick and choose what material to re-worked over and over again for different questions.

The bottom line is : Maintain a fully relevant answer.

Consider these questions :
1) Are we too reliant on science and technology ?
2) Technology gives assurance in a world fraught with insecurity. Discuss.

There could be some ideas that occur in both questions, such as these :
A) the value of nuclear energy, as opposed to the threat of nuclear weapons development
B) the reliance on communications technology, as opposed to the risk of a loss of privacy
C) the importance of modern medicine, as opposed to health risks that these may cause
D) the need for transport and other technologies that promote connectedness, as opposed to the risk of a major terror threat that is aimed at disrupting these systems for interconnectivity


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Summary of Consultation : Science and Ethics

From time to time, students may be faced with questions from their school teachers about the how science impacts or is impacted by ethics.

E.g. When science advances, morality declines. Discuss.
E.g. How far should ethics affect science?

Where can we begin? Here’s a suggestion :

The issue of ethics is raised in the following situations :
1) when the matter concerns life
2) when the matter concerns religion
3) when the matter concerns money
4) when the matter concerns choices, dilemmas
5) when the matter concerns rights or responsibilities
6) when the matter concerns the society’s understanding of right and wrong

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Summary of Consultation : Comparing 2 factors/actors

Please remember to play safe and compare the 2 factors/actors in every paragraph, even if this comparison is succinct

These are some of the questions that quite a number have attempted this past week :

(1) Singapore needs the sciences, rather than the arts to progress. Discuss.

(2) Education should focus on moral education, not academic excellence. Discuss.

(3) The rights of the individual should come before the needs of the state. Discuss.

Refer to the outline for Qn (3) below OR click here for the outline to a similar question

(1) Some of our rights are inalienable, and should be put ahead of the needs of the state.
e.g. the right to legal representation (This view opposes the  practice of detention without trial)
e.g. the right to be free from abuse
e.g. the right to choice in private decisions like family, religion

(2)  Honouring the rights of the individual can help preserve the needs of the state
e.g. pursuing the right to education, the right to dignity, or the right to life of the individual can pave the way to greater economic and social progress (which is what the state needs to do) + can give the state international recognition via global ranking and indices

(3)  However, the individual must give up some of his rights in order for the state to preserve more rights for all.
- the harm principle does not always apply

(4) The rights of the state should come before the rights of the individual, because the state is likely to know the bigger picture and have a long-term view, but the individual has very narrow, personal concerns

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Summary of Consultation : no longer / still / greater etc

Some key words in the the question prompt you to think about what has changed that would make such a question pertinent


Should schools place greater emphasis on moral education ?

If we agree, then we could use the points below. Note how the points stem from us identifying change.

1) In a media saturated world where practically anything goes, more moral education is needed that must complement thinking skills.

Click here for a recent case where thinking and morality actual clashes (note to self : must reflect on this issue in greater depth); or click here for follow-up article

2) There is a worrying trend of crime and other moral transgressions by those recognised as educated, or young people who are undoubtedly products of the education system

3) Families are breaking down, and schools must step in to support with moral education

4) Now that many people can show good paper qualifications, there needs to be other means to distinguish candidates for jobs or places in university, namely evidence of good character

5) Greater individualism engenders apathy. There is a fear that the young will grow politically disengaged and disinterested in participating in civil society or social causes.

6) Globalisation means more citizens live, work or study abroad. Moral education is needed to nurture a love for country and a desire to return and serve.

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Summary of Consultation : If necessary, clarify your thesis / General Paper Essay Outline : State involvement in our personal lives

How far should the state get involved in our personal lives ?

General Thesis : The state should get involved to large extent / small extent (This kind of thesis may not do justice to such a serious or complex question)


Clearer Thesis : The state should get involved when there are implications to the state’s ability to perform the role with which it has been entrusted, namely to lead the country to a future of progress and stability. There are also limits to the kinds of actions that the state should or should not carry out, because the actions it chooses could affect its success in carrying out it primary role.

Points for discussion (that stem from the clearer thesis) :

(1) Why people do not want state involvement :
- they are free men with inalienable rights
- their private decisions affect themselves or only those who are closest to them
- the state does not know their unique circumstance – what works for the ‘greater good’ may not work for them
- they are more educated / aware – and so cannot be assumed to be unthinking, foolish, rash (the benefit of the doubt helps them maintain freedom)

(2) While we recognise the individual’s right to choice, when these personal choices have more far-reaching repercussions, the state may need to step in for the sake of the greater good.
This is the reason that states use to set for laws against drugs, or weapons, and even for censorship

(3) Be that as it may, there is also reason to doubt the state if it too readily uses the “greater good” as a pretext to impose laws that restrict freedom or to enforce other discriminatory policies.
Furthermore, in a global, more open world, the nanny state or the police state is much frowned upon.
Thus, for many issues, if the state does want to get involved in our personal lives, it is more preferable for it do so with a “lighter touch”, such as by campaigning, public education, incentives – rather than risk stoking social tensions.

(4) Yet, state involvement in helping to preserve the rights of people is appreciated, even if this could mean barging in to take charge of the lives of those who show that they cannot. This kind of involvement can save children, women or the elderly from abusive households, ensure that the elderly are supported by their children and that children are schooled or see to it that that in separation, assets are distributed as fairly as possible.

Any other points ?


Filed under Essay Outlines / Full Essays, SAMPLE WRITING, Summary of Consultation, The State / The Government

Summary of Consultation : Variety

Reminder : A B-grade for content has Variety, in terms of points, perspectives, illustrations, insights - on top of complete relevance

Today’s sample question  : Racial diversity should be promoted not discouraged. Discuss

Interpretation :
racial diversity = when people of different ethnic groups live together
promoted = this suggests conscious effort

Possible Points :

(i) Those who say that racial diversity should be discouraged may probably be thinking that this is a simpler solution to avert complex problems associated racial tensions. After all, there have been many cases of these tensions erupting in destruction or violence. 

(ii) There is also a fear that welcoming other races into the society will naturally make a person become less inclined to promote or protect his own culture because his act of accommodating others could involve a relaxing of his own cultural standards
(iii) But there are many initiatives that can be undertaken to prevent these undesirable outcomes. As such it would be better to focus on the benefits that racial diversity can bring about. 

Racial diversity has many benefits, and should be promoted for many reasons :

1) it encourages tolerance and understanding within society

a) dispels stereotypes that arise from ignorance, and incite suspicion and hate

b) helps people appreciate differences first-hand  

c) helps people understand that beyond all the differences, there are similarities : that all communities seek peace and acceptance from their fellow human beings.
- Racial supremacy can be a thing of the past.
- Consequently, it
paves the way to build a common space that also respects these differences.
- This can include insisting on laws  and policies that protect minorities, or prevent discrimination

2) it encourages the sharing of knowledge that is unique to various cultures

a) culinary skills

b) artistry

c) traditional medicines      

d) innovation by synthesizing the knowledge

3) economically and politically advantageous for a country or city to be reknowned for cultural diversity

a) shows that there is vibrance or the vibe of a metropolitan global city e.g. the arts scene 

b) attracts foreign talent who are looking a place to live and work that welcomes their culture

c) capitalise on the diversity e.g. tourism, fusion products etc 

4) Minor point : Most countries already have racial diversity anyway due to many historical developments. So promoting it further will only spur the people of that society to pursue plans and policies that make this arrangement more successful than before

Any other points ?

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